A pair of Bronx teachers shared a dream of appearing on the TV show “Wheel of Fortune” and writing a book. While only one got to meet Pat Sajak, the duo recently made the latter a reality.
On March 26, Barbara Magnotta and Jade Greene-Grant, who teach pre-K at P.S. 121, in the Baychester section of the Bronx, held a book launch party for “Animals Eating the Alphabet,” where all of their friends, family, students and colleagues officially found out about their book for the first time.
While they began working on the children’s book several years ago, it sat dormant until the pandemic forced them to finish it.
“It was monumental,” Greene-Grant said to the Bronx Times. “We couldn’t believe we finally did it.”
Their story began when they met in 2010 as teachers at P.S. 121. They instantly bonded and became close friends.
Magnotta, 42, and Greene-Grant, 39, would eat lunch together often and discovered they loved books, kids, food and “Wheel of Fortune.” One day they said, “let’s make a book.”
“We wanted to gear it towards the children because we saw everyday what their needs are,” Magnotta said.
They began writing in 2013 with a goal of teaching kids the alphabet, the sounds of letters and what animals coincide with each letter.
Writing was easy, but finding illustrators and publishers were an issue, they said.
“We ran into things like give us $20,000 and we’ll put the book out for you,” Greene-Grant said. “We said, ‘we’ll do it one day.’”
So, the book sat on the backburner for years without much thought.
Then, in 2016, the teachers auditioned for “Wheel of Fortune” during “Best Friends’ Week.”
While they didn’t make the cut, Greene-Grant was later called to appear for “Teacher’s Week,” and Magnotta flew across the country with her for moral support.
Greene-Grant is a fan of “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” and for years had tried to get on both shows. “I’m all about letters, words and vocabulary,” she said.
So, she took advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity and won $86,000, a car and a vacation to Mexico — the two teachers celebrated the accomplishment.
“She (Magnotta) gave me a big congratulatory hug before my husband did,” Greene-Grant joked.
The ladies returned from California and didn’t give “Animals Eating the Alphabet” any additional thought until the pandemic arrived in 2020. Forced to work from home, with a lot of extra time on their hands, they decided to finish it — five years later. They used some of the winnings from “Wheel of Fortune” to hire an editor, illustrator and a relatively cheap publisher.
While the book published back on Feb. 14, their March 26 launch party was the first official announcement to the public about it.
The book is filled with colorful illustrations that are coupled with questions like, “Can a lion lick a lollipop?” or “Can a turtle taste a taco?” Currently, “Animals Eating the Alphabet” can be found on Amazon, but they hope to get it into classrooms in the future and make it into a series of 3 to 5 additional books.
“Knowing what we’ve done, I don’t think we will be able to stop,” Greene-Grant said. “’Wheel of Fortune’ you can’t control it, but the book I know I can put our best into it.”
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes